Cable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments

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9 Apr 2021

Iceland-based connectivity provider Farice and New Jersey-based subsea cable provider SubCom have announced that the contract for the supply and installation of the IRIS submarine cable system aiming to connect Iceland and Ireland is now in force. Farice has already finalised the Desk Top Study (DTS) and marine survey work on Ireland’s continental shelf and will complete the remaining survey works to Iceland in 2021. Manufacturing of the cable and equipment will take place at SubCom’s manufacturing headquarters in Newington (New Hampshire, US) in 2021/2022, with the main cable installation operations scheduled for the summer of 2022. Expected to enter commercial services by the end of 2022, the IRIS system is designed as a six-fibre pair trunk with a total system capacity of 108Tbps, with each fibre pair delivering 18Tbs. IRIS will be approximately 1,700km in length and will connect Molvik in Iceland to Ballyloughane Strand in Galway, Ireland. State-owned international connectivity provider Farice currently owns and operates the FARICE-1 and DANICE systems.

GigNet has entered into a Letter of Intent (LoI) to acquire the assets, operations and development to date for the GigNet-1 submarine cable system from FB Submarine Partners. The GigNet-1 subsea cable system between Florida (US) and Cancun (Mexico) has been in development for two years and is expected to be completed in 2022. FB Submarine Partners has already completed the desktop route survey, regulatory and permitting feasibility studies for the landings in the US and Mexico, market demand and analysis studies, and selection and contracting of key suppliers for the system design, equipment and installation. Xtera has been selected to serve as the primary engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the project. The vendor will provide the submarine wetplant consisting of fibre and amplifiers (repeaters) and the submarine line terminals in Florida and Cancun, and will manage the installation.

Ireland-based submarine cable provider Aqua Comms has been acquired by newly formed digital investment trust Digital 9 Infrastructure (D9). The previous shareholder is now replaced by D9 under investment manager Triple Point. Aqua Comms will continue to operate as a privately owned company, though wholly owned by D9. Aqua Comms’ CEO Nigel Bayliff commented: ‘The acquisition by Digital 9 will facilitate Aqua Comms in delivering on its vision of efficient infrastructure ownership and deployment to the widest possible market through its carrier-neutral approach. It will allow us to accelerate our expansion into new systems and new products in both the Atlantic and new geographies. With the majority of the Board unchanged, and with our management and operating teams remaining the same, we will continue to pursue our growth ambitions with the secure backing of a specialist investor.’ Previously, D9 said it would pay USD215 million for Aqua Comms on a cash-free, debt-free basis. Aqua Comms will make up about 30% of D9’s gross asset value after an initial public offering (IPO). Aqua Comms is the owner/operator of the America Europe Connect-1 (AEC-1), America Europe Connect-2 (AEC-2) and CeltixConnect-1 (CC-1) systems, and is currently developing the Havhingsten/CeltixConnect-2 and Havhingsten/North Sea Connect (NSC) cables.

Infrastructure firm Telxius is deploying Ciena’s Spectrum Sharing submarine network infrastructure to power the MAREA and Dunant trans-Atlantic submarine cables. Ciena’s 6500 Reconfigurable Line System (RLS) integrated C&L-band for scalable terrestrial backhaul, and WaveLogic 5 Extreme coherent optics will offer new levels of capacity and fibre efficiencies on the two systems. Rodolfo Vigliano, Senior Managing Director of Sales at Ciena, commented: ‘Ciena’s innovative GeoMesh Extreme solution allows Telxius to connect the US and Europe in the most efficient way by reducing latency and go-to-market time so that Telxius can support the delivery of bandwidth-intensive services … Ciena also supports the backhauls between Telxius’ Derio Communications Hub and the landing station of MAREA in Sopelana and the PoPs in Paris [France] and Madrid [Spain], substantially increasing transatlantic connectivity.’ The MAREA submarine cable – stretching across the Atlantic Ocean from Bilbao (Spain) to Virginia (US) – is a joint project between Telxius, Facebook and Microsoft; it was certified ready for service (RFS) in May 2018. Google’s second privately-owned submarine network Dunant meanwhile links Saint-Hilaire-de-Riez in France and the US (RFS January 2021); in March 2021 Telxius inked an agreement with Interxion to secure direct interconnection for the Dunant subsea cable at Interxion’s Paris campus.

Zayo Group Holdings has enabled 400G wavelength capabilities across its pan-European fibre network between Dublin (Ireland) and Amsterdam (Netherlands). The fibre network services provider worked with Ciena on the upgrade, which leveraged the vendor’s WaveLogic 5 Extreme (WL5e) coherent optics. The enhancement improved the overall capacity of the European network to the ‘multi-terabit’ range.

Liquid Intelligent Technologies South Africa – formerly known as Liquid Telecom South Africa (Neotel prior to that) – has completed two new fibre routes between Durban and Cape Town. The two new digital corridors are known as NLD5 and NLD6, and add a further 1,767km to the National Long Distance (NLD) network, which is being developed by a consortium consisting of Liquid, MTN, Vodacom and the South African National Road Agency Limited (SANRAL). Deon Geyser, CEO Liquid Intelligent Technologies South Africa, said: ‘The completion of these two digital corridors is yet another milestone achieved as part of our ongoing investment into the South African economy. Liquid has been instrumental in the fruition of routes 1 through to 8, providing a digital backbone that connects metropolitan cities like Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban to more remote areas like Nelspruit [Mbombela], Bloemfontein, Lady Smith and Mthatha.’

Tanzania’s Ministry of Communication and ICT has announced that it has signed a contract to extend the National Information Communication and Technology Broadband Backbone (NICTBB) to interconnect with neighbouring Mozambique. The 72km extension will run from Mangaka to Mtambaswala on the border with Mozambique, from where it will interconnect across the Unity Bridge to Negomano in Mozambique. The contract valued at TZS2.4 billion (USD1 million) was signed in January 2021, with the network scheduled for completion in July 2021. The NICTBB currently reaches the borders of six neighbouring countries, namely Burundi (Kabanga and Manyovu), Rwanda (Rusomo), Uganda (Mutukula), Kenya (Sirali, Namanga and Horohoro), Zambia (Tunduma) and Malawi (Kasumulo).

Lastly, Singapore-based Digital Edge has announced plans to acquire Sejong Telecom’s data centre assets in Seoul and Busan (South Korea). The all-cash transaction will see Digital Edge acquire a data centre in Gangnam (Seoul) and a Cable Landing Station (CLS) facility in Centum City (Busan). The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021. The deal marks Digital Edge’s first move into South Korea, with the company saying it plans to invest additional capital to expand the capacity and improve the energy efficiency of both facilities. Between the transaction and subsequent expansions, the Singaporean firm says it expects to invest over USD120 million. Digital Edge CEO Samuel Lee said: ‘With our USD1 billion capital commitment to build the Digital Edge Platform in Asia, we are excited to announce the plan to enter into the Korean market, following our initial investments in data centers in Japan.’

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Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, Tanzania, Aqua Communications (AquaComms), Ciena Corporation, Facebook, Farice, Google (Alphabet), Interxion, Liquid Intelligent Technologies South Africa, Microsoft, Ministry of Communications and ICT, MTN South Africa, SubCom, Telxius, Vodacom South Africa, Xtera, Zayo Group